"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

May I Introduce You to Mr. Satan?

Just out from Oxford University Press in both paperback and Kindle formats is a short new book from Darren Oldridge, The Devil: A Very Short Introduction (2012), 144pp. This book, the publisher tells us:

  • Focusses specifically on the Christian Devil, exploring all of the issues and debates about the Devil from the ancient to the modern
  • Highlights the Devil's place in the history of ideas and how he has shaped thought about our past
  • Considers the many guises and meanings of the Devil represented in the Bible
  • Emphasises the influence the Devil has had on many forms of popular culture, including art, literature, and even language
  • Part of the bestselling Very Short Introductions series - over five million copies sold worldwide
Why do the innocent suffer in a world created by a loving God? Does this mean that God cannot prevent this suffering, despite His supposed omnipotence? Or is God not loving after all? This in brief is 'the problem of evil'. The Devil provides one solution to this problem: his rebellion against God and hatred of His works is responsible for evil. 
The Christian Devil has fascinated writers and theologians since the time of the New Testament, and inspired many dramatic and haunting works of art. Today he remains a potent image in popular culture. The Devil: A Very Short Introduction presents an introduction to the Devil in the history of ideas and the lives of real people. Darren Oldridge shows us that he is a more important figure in western history than is often appreciated, and also a richly complex and contradictory one. 
Oldridge focuses on three main themes: the idea of the Devil being integral to western thought from the early Middle Ages to the beginnings of modernity; the principle of 'demonic inversion' (the idea that as the eternal leader of the opposition, the Devil represents the mirror image of goodness); and the multiplicity and instability of ideas about the Devil.
While belief in the Devil has declined, the idea of an abstract force of evil is still remarkably strong. Oldridge concludes by exploring 'demonological' ways of thinking in our own time, including allegations of 'satanic ritual abuse' and the on-going 'war on terror'.

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